“Stan you should try out Crown Café—and blog about it,” said cute little Sarah a wine tasting buddy of mine at Ralphs.
“Really, I haven’t heard of it.”
“It just opened. Emma, my roommate is the supervisor—you’ll like it.”
“Well, what do they serve?” I asked, not always feeling up for restaurant reviews. I’m a foodie so while I enjoy restaurants, writing about them can turn a hobby into work and I’m sure you know what that can be like.
“Coffee, panini, and some deserts,” answered Sarah.
“Okay, but you have to go with me for lunch.”
A week or so later I was walking with Sarah over to Crown Café, 531 S. Los Angeles St., 90013, between 5th and 6th. And since I was expecting a hole in the wall with a couple of tables, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find Crown Café to be quite spacious—perhaps 2,000sq. feet or so. The décor is reminiscent of a Starbucks, but much nicer. And no automated espresso machines, they’re grinding and pulling shots by hand the way it should be done.
The menu at Crown Cafe is limited, but frankly it doesn’t matter. The Cappucino, made for me by Emma (who happens to be an award winning barista) blew everything else in Downtown away with the exception of Bottega Louie, which it certainly equaled. The Panini, I had the Caprese, which was made artfully with roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes was without a doubt the best Panini I’ve had in LA period. Sarah assured me that the Chicken Artichoke Panini she was eating was every bit the equal to mine. Let me say here that I live above Panini Café on 9th, and I’ve had several of their sandwiches—THEY’RE NOT EVEN IN THE SAME LEAGUE! Panini Café makes a good-looking sandwich, but it doesn’t taste like much. CROWN CAFÉ on the other hand makes a sandwich that both looks and tastes great.
I should note a few details that caught my attention: Crown Café has free wireless and the artwork on the walls, which is for sell, is, in some cases very good. This makes sense given the building, which Crown Cafe is at the base of is an artist loft building and, as of late, a major hub for art walk activities. Also, Crown Café is making their drinks from a coffee bean roasted and distributed by Dellanos—this is a very good bean and rare in Downtown where most of the gourmet coffee beans are roasted by Lamill or Groundwork. Finally, while desert at Crown Café is standard fare the Pecan Bar is way above average and a must with an afternoon coffee drink.
Before I urge you to go visit this new gem of a Downtown spot, that extends the boundary of the neighborhoods revitalization, let me tell you the part of this story that will always make Crown Café special for me.
“Emma, I want to learn how to be a barista,” I said to this attractive coffee veteran.
“You mean like you want to watch me make one?”
“No, I want to make my own Cappucino. You just need to tell me what to do.”
And with an audience of two employees, Sarah, and a very cool customer in wait, Emma taught me the art of making a proper Cappucino. Okay, so I burned my hand a little on the milk steamer, it was still worth it. At my stage of the game there’s not too many first times for anything left—so this was a major thrill. The trick by the way is in the pour. Emma was careful to advise me to only make enough milk for one drink and to pour at just the right speed into the cup to leave the desired amount of foam on top. That big pitcher of milk at the big chain places that’s constantly being added to and reheated, is a NO to good Cappucino making.
I left Crown Café amazed, as I always am about how life works out. I had expected nothing from this place and had the best Panini eating experience of my life—and a hell of a lot of fun playing barista. Go check this place out, you’re going to like it!